The Universal in the Personal

When asked why keeping a personal sketchbook would be a valid form of “documenting global issues,” I smiled.  Well, because that’s how I learn best.

(Yes, that is a young me blow-drying her hair – and yes, that book was too good to put down.)

How are many of us taught about “global issues”?  In school, we are given diaries, autobiographies, and first person stories with allusions to bigger issues: The Diary of Anne Frank,The Autobiography of Malcolm X, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Invisible Man, The Catcher in the Rye,  The Awakening, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  The list goes on and on…

Why?  Because the universal themes that touch us all appear through the most personal experiences.  

The aforementioned books are written from the same tiny whispers that we hear as we fall asleep or right before we wake up.  Those tiny kernels of truth only gathered from lived experience.

In this recollection of a talk with her mother, Alice Walker touches on the trauma we feel when realizing that the world is out of control:

“When you make these trips back south,” says my mother, as I give the smiling waitress my credit card, “just what is it exactly that you’re looking for?”

“A wholeness,” I reply.

“You look whole enough to me,” she says.

“No,” I answer, “because everything around me is split up, deliberately split up.  History split up, literature split up, and people are split up too.  It makes people do ignorant things…”

(p. 48, “Beyond the Peacock”, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker)

Written by authors who have lived, these books do not attempt to make grand statements but instead jot down, vigorously, unabashedly, those little whispers.  Those whispers are the only words that hold the potential to become shouts carrying universal messages; the attempted, contrived “universal statements” – “you should,” “you are,” “they are,” “they were” – ring hollow and soulless.

Books filled with intensely personal whispers burrow into our hearts; they provide avenues for connection and empathy between us.  And so, by sharing intensely personal experiences with artists all over the world in a similarly personal visual format, I also aim to connect our experiences to one another.

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One response to “The Universal in the Personal

  1. Pingback: Artists to warm your heart on a rainy day « 13/13/13 Sketchbook Project·

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